There is a lot to be said for having low expectations. Which is more apt to delight you, an out-of-the way eatery you happen upon, or a blockbuster celebrity chef’s restaurant with a four-month wait for a reservation? Discovering something new – and unexpected – can be magical.
And that’s the challenge of the film Eat, Pray, Love. For some of us, the book was a life-changer, the best thing we read all summer, a new fixture on our list of favorite reads. We dog-eared favorite pages and underlined poignant passages as we savored each taste of Italy, meditated our way through India and found our heart’s desire in Indonesia. If you count yourself in this category, admit it would be hard for any movie to impress you – even a gorgeously filmed one, with Julia Roberts in luminescent glory, hot Javier Bardem with a sexy Brazilian accent, fabulous scenery and food so lovely you want to lick it off the screen.
I can’t imagine a more faithful adaptation of the story. On its own merits, it’s practically cinematic perfection – great lighting, cool close-ups, music that casts each moment’s mood. The screenplay is loyal to the book, with the right number of Roberts’ voice-overs of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best phrases. But on the page you can marvel at good writing. In a film, beautiful words wash away. And while I relished the discovery of Gilbert’s adventure on the page, here I knew exactly where we were headed. Instead of wondering what would happen next, I wondered who would play the sage Texan at the ashram, how the filmmakers would handle the house escapade in Bali, whether Julia’s impossibly plump top lip had been Botoxed.
Those who detested the book probably won’t find much to change their minds. The naysayers I know find Gilbert whiny and self-indulgent. Even I will admit the setup to the journey in the film felt a bit thin. But the proposition of the book is pretty clear: it’s about one woman’s mid-life search for meaning in three different countries. It's about being in your 30s with a life that appears so full – yet feels so empty – and taking a global adventure to change it. If that doesn't appeal to you, the book and movie probably won't either.
My best bet for fans of this movie: those who meant to read the book but never did. Perhaps seeing it on the screen will inspire them to read the real thing. And if you adored the book like I did? See it. You have to. Then go home, pull it off your bookshelf and remind yourself why you loved it.